Behind the climate change scandals

Scandals over the past few months have given rise to people’s concerns about the reliability of scientific evidence on climate change. Recent polls have also suggested that concern about the threat of global warming is weakening in Australia.

In November it was alleged that a series of hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia showed the manipulation and distortion of data. Then in January it was revealed that a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included errors regarding the speed at which the Himalayan glaciers are melting.

Sections of the mass media and big business jumped on the scandals claiming they were proof that evidence confirming global warming is still inconclusive. It is true that some minor errors were uncovered in the IPCC document but they do not in any way disprove the research that shows climate change is real and that it needs to be urgently addressed.

As for the email leak dubbed ‘climategate’, while it may have shown up some less than perfect practices, absolutely nothing of substance was revealed to challenge the majority view of climate scientists. While skeptics claim that the scandals bring into question the entire premise of the science of climate change, they refuse to apply such stringent methods of scrutiny to their own research.

While socialists are not climate change skeptics we are skeptical about all research that is conducted within the framework of a profit driven system. Under capitalism scientific research is not purely conducted for the betterment of humankind. Most research is funded in some way by big business and always reflects a certain political motive.

If a direct funding option is not available big business will often lobby governments to place scientists of their choice in charge of a project. Evidence of this was uncovered in the ‘climategate’ scandal where it was shown that big oil companies like Exxon Mobil were involved in ‘intense lobbying’ of the US government – especially in regards to positions within the IPCC. Not surprisingly this was largely ignored by the mass media.

When it comes to environmental research there is a section of big business that funds the climate change deniers. This wing, led by the big energy companies, is concerned about losing profits if there is a turn away from investment into fossil fuels.

At the same time we have another group of corporations who are set to make a lot of money from the introduction renewable technology. These companies are happy to fund research that proves climate change is real as long as it increases their capacity to make profits from selling ‘green’ products.

When people see scandals like ‘climategate’ and the errors in the IPCC report side by side with ineffective Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS), you can understand why they would think claims about climate change might be exaggerated.

For ordinary people an ETS just looks like another tax. It is a pathetic response to climate change that will mean increased costs and an increase in government debt. An ETS will also create a carbon market where the big polluters can make profits without even reducing their emissions! With working people set to pay and bosses set to profit is it any wonder that skepticism has increased?

The main lesson to be drawn from the climate scandals is that environmental research and action is too important to be left in the hands of big business and the governments that represent them.

The only way forward for the environmental movement is to reject the profit driven market system and to campaign for a system that puts people and the environment first. A democratically planned and publicly owned economy would be owned and controlled by the majority not just a rich few. This would mean that research would be reliable and a proper plan could be put in place to address climate change and environmental destruction.